Would like to know if I can plan my own island hopping schedule/tool versus using the island hopping boats available in Athens. The pre-built tours/cruise provide less flexibility (& less time) ine ach island.
During my island hopping we went from Athens to Mykonos aboard this bad boy: Hellenic Seaways, from Piraeus to Mykonos. After that, going from Mykonos to Amorgos, Santorini, Milos, etc, was very easy to do through the local ferries. The most important thing to keep in mind is their time tables/schedule because depending on the season some ferries leave once or twice a day but all are very strict to the departure times.
Regarding which ferry to take, you can get suggested services from your hotel or hostel and try to find the most affordable price from the services available. We didn't have a huge problem finding a ferry, we just needed to book a day or two before and be on time. If you choose to take a cruise service I agree with Franki in that you won't have much time to do or see what you want to.
The beauty of the islands and Greece is that you can walk around, get semi-lost, eat at the local spots and enjoy the beaches. It's just easy living, the last thing you want to do is be pressured. Last but not least, bring a map! Of Greece and each island- if you find them wherever available. You can get a moped and roam around but it is better to be prepared with a local map to get back to your lodging, and a general country map to show the locals where you want to go next... or ask where you are!
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Hi Aditi! You don't have to use a pre-built tour to get around Greece's magnificent islands. However, you will want to have a good sense of where you want to go. Check out http://www.openseas.gr which gives you specific ferry schedules and port information.
Note: you might know the Isles by their popular names (like
Santorini) while they call it by it's given Greek name (such as Thera). So long as you are willing to do a little more legwork (and a little research), you can travel at your own pace & set your own path. Opa!